My favourite Mother-in-law came to stay with us in Cologne and we were looking for an interesting day trip to take her on. When we get the chance, we love to head South East from Cologne and visit the Ahr Valley and the picturesque Eifel National Park. These lovely picturesque parts of Germany are only 70 km from Cologne and are perfect for day trips if you are in the area. Both places are renowned for their fabulous scenery as well as pretty towns and villages. It also gave us a great chance to check out a couple of little, independent cafes in perfect From Real People style. Rural communities like the Ahr Valley rely on tourists and visitors to support their communities – come, visit and help them sustain their way of life.
Introducing the Ahr Valley
First, I want to give you a bit of orientation so you can understand where the Ahr Valley sits in relation to the main cities in this part of central Germany. As you can see on my handy map, its about 70 km South of Cologne and a little bit closer from Bonn. If you have a car, the drive is an easy 40 minutes which is mostly Autobahn motorway. A good starting point for good practical information about the Ahr Valley can be found on the website of the local tourist board.
If you don’t have a car then you could use the train from Cologne or Bonn main stations. For the Ahr Valley you take a train to Remagen and then connect onto the Ahr Valley train service. In terms of tickets, the NRW Schöner TagTickets are excellent value – only 45 Euros for 5 people.
When people think of German wine regions it’s often the Mosel that is foremost in people’s minds. However, the wines of the Ahr Valley are becoming increasingly popular despite being one of the smallest regions in Europe. The valley runs for just 24 km (15 miles) along the Ahr River, which flows towards the famous River Rhine. The Ahr Valley starts in the lovely picturesque town of Altenahr in the West through to Ehlingen in the East. On either side of the river are steep valleys, which allows for wonderful views to the river below. There are lots of walks and trails in this area and the rewards of following some of the walks are huge.
The Rotwein Wanderweg – A Walk through the Vineyards
One of the most beautiful walking trails in the area is the Rotwein Wanderweg (the Red Wine walking trail). We’ve made the walk on a number of occasions and there’s something special walking from vineyard to vineyard sampling the wine along the way. In this area the vines are perched on steep, terraced cliffs of volcanic slate. The path of wends its way through the Ahr Valley between the vineyards. Most of the towns and villages in the Ahr Valley have small, locally run vineyards that you can visit to taste and buy the wine. Four out of five bottles of Ahr wine are red. These range from velvety to fiery Spätburgunders and light, charming Portugieser predominate. The area also produces Dornfelder, as well as fresh Rieslings.
The Beautiful Towns of the Ahr Valley
As you travel through the Ahr Valley you come across one beautiful little town after another. The largest town in the area is the pretty linked towns of Bad Neuenahr and Ahrweiler. A great time to visit is around St Martin’s on 11 November when huge fires are lit on the hillsides. The town also has a lovely Christmas Market, which makes a perfect break from the crowds of the Cologne Christmas Markets. The Ahr River then passes through a succession of lovely little towns that are all worth a visit. These include Waldporzheim, Dernau, Rech and Maychoss before finally reaching Altenahr. The train service is a great way to bounce from one place to another before taking a train back to Cologne or Bonn so you can enjoy the local wine without having to worry about driving.
Cafe in der Alten Scheune – Fab Coffee
After a lovely wander through the Ahr Valley we popped up to the nearby village of Hilberath having been recommended a wonderful little cafe to get the perfect coffee and cake. The Cafe in der Alten Scheune or the Cafe in the Old Barn as it translates in English is the perfect little cafe to enjoy the German ritual that is Kaffee und Kuchen. I love little, independent cafes like this one – much better to support people like Angelika Sampels and her family that pouring money into the pockets of faceless shareholders.
We were totally spoiled by Angelika and her friendly team. The Black Forest Gateaux (back right) was rich and sumptuous. The cake at the front in the middle was a wonderful apple sponge, while on the left was a perfect raspberry sponge. As well as a wider range of different coffee they also serve lots of different tea – my wife tells me that the Earl Grey tea was one of the best she ever had. Having tea in Germany always starts a good debate about the proper way to serve it. Milk or no milk is always a good question. If you are looking for the answer to this and other tea etiquette related questions, check out fellow blogger Sage Scott’s 7 rules of drinking English afternoon tea.
The End of a Lovely Day in the Ahr Valley
If you are looking for somewhere to have a nice day trip if you are visiting the central Germany cities of Bonn and Cologne then the Ahr Valley is perfect. The scenery is out of this world with deep valleys on either side of the river as it winds its way through the countryside. The best time of year to visit is over the summer and autumn when the vineyards are in full flourish and the colours are amazing. Take the time to stop in as many of the little towns and villages as you can. Enjoy some of the local wine and take the chance to stop one of the local, independent cafes. It’s a great way to support a thriving rural community.